By Jack Ross
Every week, it seems, a different Cal receiver rises to the occasion. Last week's game against UCLA was no exception as sophomore Jeremy Ross pieced together a tidy three-catch, 47-yard game that included a crucial 29-yard reception. "I'm feeling real comfortable out there," Ross said. "The more I get in, the more I get adjusted. It's been a good run. I feel relaxed, and I'm starting to make big plays." Perhaps one of the leading reasons for Ross's recent emergence has been his increased role on special teams. For the past two weeks, he's been one of Cal's starting kickoff return men. Last Saturday, he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 47 yards into Bruins territory-a career-long. And according to him, moments like that allow Ross to be more ready to contribute on the offensive side of the ball.
"It helps a lot getting me in the game, getting the ball in my hands," Ross said. "I'm a guy who feeds off just getting in there. The more I'm in the game, the better I'll play." Ironically, Ross's most memorable moment on Saturday-when he hurdled clear over a UCLA defender-didn't count in the box score, nullified by an illegal block by Kevin Riley. Even still, Ross "got props" for the play. "A lot of (the receivers) told me that was a good play," Ross said. "Some told me, 'I didn't know you had it in you.'" One shouldn't necessarily expect a replay against Oregon, though. "Never happened before," Ross said when asked if he'd ever vaulted a defender before. "Not in high school ... It just happened (on Saturday)."
Ducks Do Damage on Ground
The imperative of containing the Ducks' running offense-which leads the nation with 30 rushing touchdowns-extends much further than just containing Oregon's top two backs. Sophomore LeGarrette Blount and senior Jeremiah Johnson lead the way with 1,100 yards and 21 touchdowns between them-but don't forget about JuCo transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who, according to Jeff Tedford, is an equally adept runner.
"Very explosive," Tedford said of the Ducks' rushing attack. "Blount is a big physical guy. Johnson is a guy that can make you miss. And then Masoli, he's like another running back, back there playing quarterback. (Masoli) is a dangerous guy out there." Many seem to think Cal's switch to the 3-4, which puts more speed on the field, makes the Bears more well-equipped to deal with the potent rushing attack, but Tedford wasn't eager to concede that point. "I don't know if you say being in a 3-4 is just going to stop it," Tedford said. "You still have to make plays, but naturally, it puts more speed on the field than the 4-3." Another wrinkle of the Oregon offense is second-year coordinator Chip Kelly. Despite the success found in consecutive victories against the Ducks in 2006 and 2007-against the likes of Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart-Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory pointed to Kelly's run-centered offense as being a major difference. "Every year is different," Gregory said. "This is only (Kelly's) second year there and so we're still figuring him out a little bit and what he likes. (The Oregon offense) is still the spread, but he has his own deal. Everyone has their own wrinkles."
Foot, Not Elbow, Bothering Best
After two weeks and over 200 rushing yards, it's safe to say that any lingering concerns about the strength of tailback Jahvid Best's elbow can be put to rest. "The elbow is feeling perfect," Best said via teleconference. "I didn't have any problems with it (against UCLA)." Perfect may not be the best word to describe the condition of Best's foot. What Best initially described as a sprained ankle, he is now calling a foot problem-an injury that stemmed from gradual wear and tear. "It's more of a foot kind of deal," Best said. "It's like a foot sprain. Any time I put pressure on my foot, I kind of feel it ... (My) foot is a little sore. I'm rehabbing that and getting back to 100 percent." Even still, Best confidently pledged he would be ready to go come Saturday at 12:30 p.m. "We're working on it and it will be ready for this weekend."